Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Member Derek Hatcher: On Writing

I recently asked Derek Hatcher a few quick questions about what brought him to writing. Derek is a new member with us, and you'll no doubt see some author interviews with him on First Person Plural in the future. If you're a member reading this and want to share your own story, feel free to contact me.

What did I do before? As far back as fourth grade, I wanted to have a relationship with computers. I read the story of “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine” and became inspired that a machine could complete my homework assignments. In college, I majored in Computer Science and began my career as a software programmer. Since 1974, I have worked in the Information Technology field. Initially, I was a software developer (programmer). I moved to installing operating systems, setting up LANs and WANs and finally, managing a technical support team.

I’ve always enjoyed reading fiction. Authors such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Herman Hesse and John A. Williams were authors I never tired reading. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first poet I ever heard of. Her writings, along with Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, and Sonya Sanchez were poets I continue to be inspired by. Historical/social writers such as Lorraine Hansberry, WEB Dubois, John Henrik Clarke and Chancellor Williams are authors who’ve inspired and enlightened my understanding of the world I live in.

Six years ago, my wife and I traveled to Italy and I was inspired; not certain what to do. As a child, I could only dream of visiting far away places; I decided it was time to make my dreams happen. Each year I’ve travelled to a place I’ve wanted to see. On my first visit to the Pacific coast area of Costa Rica, I instantly fell in love; each year since, I’ve returned.

What brought me to writing? Last summer I was reading a blog; something I’d heard of but really hadn’t investigated. The blogger wrote about a fashion style for men; the post caught my attention. I left him a comment indicating how impressed I was and that it inspired me to think about someday attempting to blog.

Why now? I can only say I felt a desire for expression and I believed writing offered me a path to my expression. I love to write; I can’t describe it any simpler. I didn’t want to attempt something as monumental as writing a book. I believed blogging would provide me with a venue for written expression. I began blogging in October (2008) and really wasn’t sure what I had to say or for that matter whether anyone would find it worthy of reading. I’ve blogged about social issues, emotions and I’ve even written a few chapters of fictional stories.

What is my creative process? I’m working on several short stories and my approach (up to now) has been identifying characters, scenes, and then working with dialog and plots. I’ve learned that writing requires discipline and commitment. That it’s not something you do from time to time. Even when I don’t blog, I’m writing daily; working to generate ideas, characters, scenes dialog and plots. I believe that daily writing helps me develop consistency and purpose. Blogging entails a totally different approach for me. I look for ideas from reading what other bloggers talk about, conversations with friends and relatives, news, sports and music. I usually can find something which I try to convey an idea; something the reader might consider.

What am I working on? I’m writing about the murder of my younger brother Ronald. I wrote a blog post about how his murder affected my mother, brothers and me. When I decided to write about it as a short story, it occurred to me that I should write it from his eyes; how he viewed life around him up to the moment of his murder. I’m finding the greatest challenge is facing the emotions that specific memories about him trigger, talking with family members and friends who knew him. Writing his story this way means there are scenes which must be created, characters that need depth and blending fiction with actual events. I’ve had to look back at my life as it was forty years ago as a means of developing my brother’s character. Although I’m writing about one specific event in his life, I found it necessary to lead up to that event by revealing what life was like in the early 1970’s on Chicago’s West Side.

About Derek Hatcher: I was born and raised in Chicago and worked in the IT profession for over thirty years. I began my career as a software developer (programmer), watched it flourish as systems programmer and settle in as a manager of IT technical staff. In 1981, my employer transferred me from Chicago to Austin (Texas). I lived in Austin (with my wife and five children) working in IT government agencies (federal and state) and private sector. In 1999 my wife and I moved to Virginia. I’ve always viewed software development as a creative process; I believe that’s why I’ve enjoyed my career. As a manager of IT staff, I found myself hungering to be creative but no longer having the outlet of a developer. Writing software is much different from writing a story. Writing software is simply giving a machine a specific set of instructions. Writing a story requires creating an image in the mind of the reader; the description of people, places, sounds, scents, tastes, touch, the visual and unseen all must take shape when writing. I began writing last fall as a method of tapping into what I viewed as my well of creative expression. It’s my hope to someday publish.

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